Warner Bros. Expects ‘Crime’ to Pay in 2015

Tribune Broadcasting believes syndication is ready for crime time: More than two years in the making, the new one-hour strip, Crime Watch Daily, has been acquired from Warner Bros.’ for fall 2015.

Tribune has picked up the show in all of its markets, clearing it in 42% of the country. Warner Bros. will take the show out to the rest of the country this fall, but is in no hurry to do so with the new syndication season just getting started.

“There is a terrific opportunity in early fringe leading into local news as well as in daytime to capture an audience that is longing for distinctive, addictive and real-life television,” says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “As we’ve seen on cable and in other dayparts, audiences have an insatiable appetite for real life investigations and crime stories.”

Tribune, which had considered picking up a crime-show block to premiere this fall, plans to air the show—which will feature reporters going into the field to cover crime stories that aren’t being covered extensively by national media, or find new angles on significant breaking stories—as a 4 p.m. news lead-in in many markets. With its acquisition of Local TV and the change of its Indianapolis station, WTTV, to CBS, Tribune owns both traditional and non-traditional affiliates and all of those stations have different daytime line-ups.

“We wanted to make sure this show would fit on a wider group of our affiliates and in time periods that were compatible with its lead-ins and lead-outs in every market,” says Sean Compton, president of strategic programming and acquisitions for Tribune Broadcasting, which carries conflict talkers, including NBCUniversal’s trio of Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos on most of its CW-affiliated stations. “This is the perfect show to put adjacent to news and daytime.”

Although Tribune is buying the show from Warner Bros. in a traditional licensing deal—unlike the studio-station group partnerships the group has done recently—its stations will be participants in the show, serving as extended newsrooms with stations’ local reporters covering stories of crime and justice in local markets.

“Whichever stations go into partnership with us will end up being an extension of the show,” says creator and executive producer Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, who’s also the senior executive producer of Warner Bros.’ Extra.

“This show is not going to be talking heads pontificating about the news of the day,” says Scott Eldridge, who, with Jeremy Spiegel, will executive produce the show alongside Gregorisch-Dempsey. “Our reporters will be on the ground getting ground-breaking interviews. They are all fearless. They live and breathe crime and they are all interested in seeing justice done.”

Crime Watch Daily, which will have an in-studio host along with teams of reporters, also will take that local reporting and use it to identify national trends, says Eldridge.

Crime Watch Daily’s mission is to offer daytime viewers crime, mystery and drama, which both Warner Bros.’ research and a look at any electronic TV program guide will reveal remains one of TV’s most popular genres. On cable, repeats of crime procedurals, such as NCIS on USA, continue to perform, while Investigation Discovery, a crime-focused network aimed at women 25-54 is one of cable’s fastest-growing.

“We all know that crime on TV is ubiquitous,” says Gregorisch-Dempsey. “The crime-junkie audience is pervasive, and it’s the most underserved audience on daytime broadcast television.”

Last year, Warner Bros. and several other studios were developing crime shows, but none of them made it into production. Warner Bros. had enough confidence in the genre that it continued to evolve its show under the guidance of Mike Darnell, who was named president of Warner Bros.’ unscripted and alternative television in May, 2013.

“Mike Darnell wanted the show to look and feel primetime and that’s exactly what we delivered,” Gregorisch-Dempsey says. Together with Darnell, Gregorisch Dempsey and her team refined their crime concept into the show that will premiere next fall.

“For every Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias, there are a dozen towns who are happy we aren’t there knocking on their doors, but that’s going to change,” says Gregorisch-Dempsey. “We are going to be daytime’s new destination for crime.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.